Monday, July 26, 2010

Talking about money Luke 12:13-21

End of July greetings to any and all readers.
I've been blessed with some good distractions this past month. Time with my family, in laws, and Godparents at the start of the month and a visit with my sister, niece, and my folks last week. But now I am back trying to figure out what to say this coming Sunday.

Reading the gospel for this week there's plenty to talk about. Jesus spoke about a rich man who God called a fool. The question is do we as Jesus' followers today have the guts to have such a conversation with ourselves and our neighbors like Jesus had with the people around him.

A man came to Jesus asking him to settle an dispute with his brother about the family estate. Jesus asked the man, "who set me to be a judge." Then he warned the people to be on guard against all kinds of greed. Jesus was really warning the people to be on guard against idols, false gods, who will enslave us and distract us from the real God.

Jesus confronted the idols of money and possession with a story about a rich farmer. Many would have considered the farmer wise in the ways of this world and that's why Jesus story in Luke just cut to the core. Jesus said he prospered so much that he needed to build bigger barns to hold all his harvest. As the project was completed he said to his soul,

Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry. Luke 12:19 NRSV.
Jesus made it very clear that God had another view of the situation.
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. Luke 12:20-21 NRSV.
Jesus has a way of cutting through our false gods, shredding through them so quickly that we end up standing before the one true God naked with absolutely no place to hide. Our list of false god's and dumb idols includes, but is not limited to, money and possessions. The hardest part of confronting idol worship of any kind is the denial that most people have of their own idolatry.
Last summer David Lose at Luther Seminary organized a gathering for young pastors to present on ideas of interest to them that might be of interest to others. He asked us to use the ignite format. Present 20 images that auto advance every 15 seconds while talking about an idea of great interest to us. I showed up with our 5 month old , now 17 month old daughter ready for a day full of presentations but as I remember only 2 of us came with anything to spark conversation.
I came with a presentation about money, and an invitation to other pastors to be willing to talk about money. It was good to see that David Lose is ready to pick up the conversation about money again. You can read his invitation to conversation about money this week at Working Preacher.
The question in the first two slides were in part sparked by a question in the Thrivent More Than Money Matters material.

So what do you think.
Is the church really ready to have a conversation about money in the midst of a struggling economy. Are we ready, as Christ's people, to be free from the shackles of false gods. Jesus invites us to come to him and take his light yoke upon our shoulders instead of the overbearing yoke that comes from our infatuation with money and things.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sit with Jesus Luke 10:38-42

"Lord, don't you care...?"
Martha asked Jesus this question. It's a question Jesus has probably heard again and again over 2000 years as followers seek to be faithful. The question's borne of frustration and disappointment proving that no matter how much we strive there's still more to do.

Martha busied herself serving while her sister Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening to her teacher. The truth of this story rings clear in Christian life. We hear the Good News of our freedom in Christ and then we hear the call of the Lord to serve. We forget that God's work isn't going to be finished by one person alone. We get tired and frustrated our emotions fraying at the edges.

  • Sit at Jesus' feet and be restored.
  • Work and work even for the sake of God and you tire physically and emotionally.

Martha voiced her emotion asking, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40 NRSV

Martha wanted a yes or no answer from Jesus. Jesus wouldn't respond to her demand with a simple yes or no.

Mary wanted to be with Jesus. Martha wanted to serve him. Martha watched Mary sitting with Jesus. Martha was angry. And Jesus answered her saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part..." Luke 10:41-42 NRSV

Jesus had no less concern or compassion for Martha than he did for Mary. The difference was that Martha wouldn't stop to simply be with him.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

YourNname in the Book of Life: a better reason to rejoice. Luke 10:1-11,16-20

Jesus friends believed they had plenty of reason to rejoice. But he said there was an even better reason.

In Luke 10:1-15 Jesus sent His friends out into the towns and villages to heal, caste out daemons and announce the that the kingdom of God was coming near. They were to go where they were welcome. Where they were unwelcome they were to wipe the dust from their feet. It's worth noting that Jesus friends aren't recorded here as making reports about towns where they had wiped their feet.

As a pastor I served a while back in a church 30 years after some young people left to join a cult. Members spoke, years later, of the cult leader wiping the dust from his feet after he came to visit. The symbolic act was shocking. To see someone come free after over 30 years in the cult was amazing. It seemed like a good reason to rejoice to see someone free from such power. In Luke 10:16-19 Jesus friends came back with excitement to report what they'd seen and heard as they followed Jesus. Jesus said,

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luke 10:18-19 NIV
Jesus's friend thought they had reason to rejoice. And in many ways it seems to me that they did. They were seeing the evil one retreat. They were seeing the power of God at work. It seems like a good time to offer thanks. But Jesus said, not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20 NRSV

Jesus words remind us that we haven't even seen half of what God is up to in this universe. We can and often do get excited when we see God at work through the church; but Jesus knows that we have even greater reason to rejoice.